Earlier this year, Mohamed El-Erian was the head of PIMCO, a global investment fund valued at $2 trillion, and earning roughly $100 million a year. His work ethic and economic prowess made him a titan of industry, well-known and respected around the world.
But all of that suddenly became less important after a simple conversation with his 10-year-old daughter about brushing her teeth. Despite asking her several times to brush her teeth, El-Erian’s little girl would not follow his orders. She then told him to "wait a minute" and left the room.
When she returned, the girl handed her dad a piece of paper. On the paper was a hand-written list of all the "important events and activities" that her dad had missed because of his demanding job.
"Talk about a wake-up call," El-Erian wrote in a column for Worth. "The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade. And the school year wasn’t even over."
The dad admitted that he “got defensive” and cited a number of "good excuses" for missing each event: Travel, important meetings and urgent phone calls. But ultimately, he realized he was missing out on his daughter’s life and harming the "very special relationship" he had with her.
He resigned from his job in January, sparking a firestorm of speculation about the reason behind his departure.
Read more from El-Erian’s column:
As much as I could rationalize it—as I had rationalized it—my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.
Of course, I was experiencing what many, if not the majority of working parents experience: Work-life imbalance is prevalent in America and is one of our greatest challenges. It is particularly tough on the more vulnerable members of our population, including single parents and lower-income families. And, inevitably, children.
Work-life balance was an initiative that we had been devoting more time to at PIMCO. But that knowledge did little to dampen this very personal wake-up call. And it is one of the main reasons why I decided to make a major professional change.
Earlier this year I left behind the privilege and intellectual stimulation of working with extremely talented colleagues and friends at PIMCO and instead opted for a portfolio of part-time jobs that requires a lot less travel and offers a ton more flexibility—enough, I hope, to allow me to experience with my daughter more of those big and little moments that make up each day.
El-Erian said quitting his job has been the "right decision." He now wakes up with his daughter in the morning, makes breakfast and takes her to school. They also made plans for a father-daughter holiday.
"Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. But, hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more and more people will be in a better position to decide and act more holistically on what’s important to them," he concluded.
Read the entire Worth column here.